IQSS has encouraged and allowed researchers to think more expansively and take on projects that would have been impossible otherwise. The transformational impact of IQSS is demonstrated in the following examples:
photo credit: Ken Banks, kiwanja.net
Helping Treat Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa
Professor Caroline Buckee worked with the IQSS Data Science Services team to analyze cell phone data from 15 million individuals over the course of a year to track the spread of malaria. The data analysis detailed the movement of individuals through sub-Saharan Africa and beyond to track the spread of malaria and recognize the origin of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which informs the individuals and organizations in Africa who can provide tools to prevent further spread of the disease.
Keeping Internet Connectivity Data Private
As a participant in the IQSS Postdoctoral Fellows Program, Dr. Suso Baleato leveraged IQSS-based research tools to measure digitization around the world using internet connectivity statistics. It was critical to be able to produce his results in a secure and privacy preserving way to protect this sensitive data. His research earned him the annual poster prize of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Postdoc Research Symposium.
Exploring the Impacts of Partisan Segregation
Working with the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA), Professor Ryan Enos combined voter demographics with geographic data to understand how much individual people are exposed (or not) to opposing political viewpoints. This work included the creation of large scale geospatial processing and analytical capability to support the analysis of a 300 billion record data set, which was used to construct individual levels of partisan exposure at several approximated geographies for each voter in US.
IQSS helped reverse-engineer the huge censorship program in China, providing real ways of predicting in advance where China’s leaders may next crack down on civil and human rights in real life and in cyberspace. This involved monitoring 1,400 Chinese social media outlets in real time, downloading all social media posts before the government could censor them, and then from a network of computers around the world, go back to each post to see if it had been censored. IQSS researchers discovered, contrary to what had been conventional wisdom, that China does not censor criticism of the government, government leaders, or their policies; rather, they censor any attempt at collective action against the government, its leaders, or policies.
Dataverse is a leading example of IQSS’ data science development efforts. It is open source software that allows users to archive, share, reference, extract, and analyze research data. Widely adopted, it now offers access to more social science research data than any other system in the world, facilitating the sharing of information while also ensuring researchers are credited for their work and data is kept secure where necessary.
IQSS is comprised of faculty and students representing nearly every school within Harvard, plus visiting scholars, fellows, and postdocs from institutions across the globe. These scholars are supported by a staff of more than 50 dedicated IT professionals, administrators, and support personnel. The strength of our community is derived from our philosophy of collaboration: the more information we share, the better the social science research and the more likely it is that we will be able to fix some of the world’s most complex social problems. Join us in our efforts!